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Dublin couple in court after son misses FOUR YEARS of school

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
The man and woman have refused to engage with education and welfare authorities
The man and woman have refused to engage with education and welfare authorities

A DUBLIN couple, whose 13-year-old son has been absent from school for four years, have been warned they risk facing a Garda investigation for neglect and their children could be taken into care.

The man and woman have refused to engage with education and welfare authorities.

They had initially faced prosecution after their elder son, who is in his mid-teens, failed to return to school from September 2014 to May 2015. However, he went back school in September last year but additional charges were brought in relation to their younger son's education.

The Dublin District Court case has been brought by Tusla Child and Family Agency (CFA). The married couple could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warnings about school attendance.

The parents claim the child is too ill to attend but they would not allow the CFA permission to verify this with their doctor. Initially they had signed consent forms but later withdrew their consent, she said.

Dublin District Court heard that the 13-year-old was taken out of school by his parents after an allegation was made against his female teacher. Gardai and social services investigated and believe the allegations were unfounded, a senior social worker told Judge John O'Neill. Attempts were made to interview the child in relation to the claims and “gardai concluded there was no substance to the allegation”.

The teacher has since returned to work.

The mother claims her son has been traumatised, is ill and cannot return to school.

An education and welfare officer told the court that the mother had refused to grant permission to contact their GP to find out if anything is wrong with the child.

The court heard the family would not engage with Tusla and would not attend appointments with school attendance officers. An offer of home tuition could not be followed up on because the parents would not allow the social workers speak with their doctor about the child.

Social services also concerns about the parents' cognitive ability and about the mother's mental health. A senior social worker, based in Dublin, said that a case conference about whether or not the children should remain in the care of the parents is the next step.

There are child neglect concerns which have been referred to gardai.

Judge O'Neill heard the 13-year-old has learning difficulties but Tusla were concerned that he has been out of school for four years. “It is a huge amount of time, he was last in school when he was nine, he is now 13. Our priority is the fact he has no interaction with peers, he is in the house on a full time basis, obviously spending a lot of time with his mother and I have huge concerns for his emotional well-being and the impact of that as well,” the social worker told the court.

The mother is cross-examining prosecution witnesses and has made claims defamatory statements have been made against her. The judge has repeatedly warned her about statements she has made and that she should ask specific questions.

She repeatedly said she did not want to hear “verbals without facts.” She also claimed she has been unable to get medical reports from a hospital and the court proceedings were illegal.

Dorothy Ware, solicitor for the CFA told Judge O'Neill that two more witnesses are to give evidence.

The case resumes in June.